The 29 year-old tight end posted a lengthy message on Instagram today announcing his decision. In it, he says that it was a “truly incredible honor to play for such a great established organization.”
Gronkowski played all 9 of his professional seasons with the New England Patriots after being picked in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. In 115 regular season games, Gronkowski had 521 receptions for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns. In 16 playoff games, Gronkoswki had 81 receptions for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns.
A favorite target of quarterback Tom Brady, Gronkowski quickly took the NFL by storm in 2011. In what some might consider the most dominant season by a tight end in NFL history, Gronkowski caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and scored an NFL record 18 TDs for a TE (one of which was a rushing score). The rest, they say, is history.
A Career for the Record Books
Gronkowski will leave the game holding a slew of NFL records. These include the most seasons with 10+ TDs by a TE (5), most TD receptions in a season (17), most receiving yards in a season for a TE (1,327), and most career postseason TD receptions (12). He is also the only TE to have 1,000 career postseason receiving yards, and the only TE to ever lead the league in receiving touchdowns in a single season.
For as high as Gronkowski climbed the statistical ladder, he likely could have climbed much higher. The big tight end’s career was unfortunately hampered by injuries: breaking and re-breaking the same arm, a torn MCL, a vertebral fracture, and multiple concussions, all prevented him from seeing the field at various points in his career. He only played in all 16 games in a season twice (his first two).
But what he, and Patriots fans, are most apt to remember are the titles. Gronkowski was a member of three Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams (XLIX, LI, and LIII). In this past Super Bowl victory over the Rams, Gronkowski had 6 catches for 87 yards, one of which set up the only touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter. In the end, his individual and team successes should ensure a spot in Canton for #87, likely on the first ballot.
Gronkowski has not indicated what retirement will hold (possibly the WWE?). But it’s not hard to imagine he will find a way to keep us entertained, whatever this next chapter brings.